Drafting the mediation clause in franchise agreements
Once convinced of the utility of mediation as a method of resolving conflicts between franchisor and franchisee and taken the decision to include a clause in the contracts that provides for it, the last step would be what elements should be taken into account when drafting it.
- The previous negotiation. It seems advisable that both parties grant themselves the possibility of trying to solve the problem with a previous formal negotiation. Mediation does not exclude the previous attempt made by the interested parties or their lawyers; however, it seems advisable to contractually provide a suitable end according to the circumstances. Experience shows that lengthening this phase too long may result in the conflict becoming more complicated and even more difficult to approach mediation.
- The clause may also provide for the place where the mediation will take place. Again at this point the parties are free. It is convenient that this is accurate indicating the concrete city.
- The language in which the mediation will be developed is the a faculty of the parties. There will be no difficulty in mediations in which both parties use the same language, but it is very convenient in contracts with parties that have different languages, or that belong to regions or countries with different co-official languages. The drafting or signing of the contract in a specific language does not presuppose that this must be the language of the mediation. It is an element to be taken into account also when requesting a mediator who can use that language in the chosen mediation institution.
- The procedure can also be decided by the parties. In particular, the number of sessions, the maximum expected duration, the participation of advisors, etc. Keep in mind that the greater or lesser regulation will allow to avoid future conflicts in this respect, although it will also imply a greater limit to the freedom of the parties that, nevertheless, will remain free to modify the agreement by mutual consent.
- The term of the mediation can also be contemplated. This would allow, for example, to prevent mediation from being extended only for purely procedural strategic purposes or to gather information from the other party before starting a procedure, etc. The professional mediators, however, are able to identify these manoeuvres, also having the power to put an end to mediation in those cases.
- Choosing the mediator or the mediation institution is an important choice. The parties can agree on who will be their mediator, indicate in the contract the elements to choose it, or submit directly to a Mediation Institution so that it is the one who designates it according to its own rules. These decisions can be alternatives (that is, that the parties agree on the mediator and, in case of lack of agreement, submit to an institution that names it), or they can be unique. The designation of an Institution requires that it has a sufficient guarantee of stability (avoid designating short-term institutions or without much future guarantee), with a sufficient panel of mediators depending on the characteristics of the mediation (language, competence, experience) and that allows the necessary flexibility for its operation.
- Finally, it is convenient that the clause includes an alternative way in case the mediation does not succeed either because the parties do not reach an agreement, or because they withdraw from the mediation. It is important to recall that mediation does not close the doors to the conflict be resolved by recourse to ordinary jurisdiction or arbitration. And in terms of specialized arbitration in distribution contracts, the IDArb (https://www.idiproject.com/content/idarb-idi-arbitration-project) is an excellent option.
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